Munich (München in German, Minga in Old Bavarian), the capital of the Free State of Bavaria, and third-largest, most densely populated and vertically topmost city of Germany, and conistently rated to be one of the world's most livable municipalities.
The story of the city started fairly late into the history of Germany, being first mentioned in 1158, when it still was a Benedictine monastery (the chapel house of which actually still stands as St Peter's Church) with a little settlement (thus the name 'München' - a bastardisation of the old German "Ze den Munichen" - "Where The Monks Are"). There might have been Celts living on that spot for centuries beforehand, but apart from a negligible amount of Roman artefacts, little remains from that era. Munich was built along the banks of the Isar river, at an island-heavy ford that would later prove to be a precious nodal point in the Holy Roman Empire's salt trade - and Munich's key to prosperity.
Over centuries, it served as the capital city for the Electorate of Bavaria (one of the HRE's most influential - and almost consistently largest - territories), later to be made a Kingdom by Napoléon Bonaparte. While it was the salt trade that once made the town big, it was its infatuation with culture and science that made it world-famous. Many Bavarian rulers were patrons of the arts and attracted artists and thinkers from all over the Western World, having them landscape palaces, parks, museums and often entire districts.
Up until the advent of World War I, Munich was known as a huge exporter of its own culture both domestically and internationally. The fact that the cosmopolitan city itself took hints from France, Italy, Austria, Bohemia, Britain and many German states helped Bavaria to manifest itself as a quintessential posterchild for German culture. Plus, Munich always had the honour of essentially becoming a capital right behind the capital for about any larger nation whose sphere of influence Bavaria found itself in - be it Vienna, Paris or Berlin. Prussians loved Bavarian culture, even though the feeling never was mutual.
On a less proud note, Munich grew to become a very reactionary place after the Great War, with much of the citizenry having not gotten over the forceful resignation of the Bavarian monarchy in 1918 and a shortlived Communist revolution (which lasted for a grand total of two weeks, but was bloody enough to kill 3000 people). It was one of the reasons why it would eventually act as the political launching pad for a certain failed Austrian painter and war cripple, being the HQ of what would later become the NSDAP. In 1923, Munich became the scene of yet another failed revolution - Hitler's Beerhall Putsch (which lasted for about a day and killed twenty), but later went on to become the place of his first electoral victories. The Nazis' first concentration camp was also built just outside the city gates, in Dachau.
During World War II, Munich was heavily bombarded by the American and British air forces, losing 70 percent of its buildings, most of which were medieval and Baroque structures, and then surrendered to the Americans without a fight.
These losses, however, did nothing to quell Bavaria's popularity and influence. After the war, it became the most affluent region in Germany, and the presence of the US Armed Forces put Bavarian culture back into global focus, affirming Munich's cultural position in the eyes of the world even more so than ever before. It went from being an important German city to the German city for many.
- The Marienplatz the heart and brain of Munich (going North, you come to the Odeonsplatz, going east, you come to the banks of the Isar, going south, you come to the Sendlinger Tor, and going west, you will arrive at the Karlspatz). It also was the medieval marketplace of Munich and houses both the Old and the New Town Hall. The former is a medieval building (originally s dancing hall and currently a toy museum), and the second is a turn-of-the-century gothic revival structure with multiple courtyards (and the home of the famed Munich Carillon and Glockenspiel).
- The Frauenkirche ('Lady's Church', full name 'Dome Of Our Lady') possibly exerts the biggest Eiffel Tower Effect in Munich's skyline, what with its rather unique two 100 metre-tall red brick towers topped with verdigris onion domes. Comes with its own 'Did You Just Scam The Devil' myth. One other reason the Frauenkirche stands out is that few other buildings in Munich centre are anywhere near as tall - and to keep it that way, few buildings are allowed to exceed a height of five storeys.
- The Viktualienmarkt ('Victual Market') is Munich's new main market square, lodged behind the Alter Peter (St. Peter's Church), featuring stands selling (amongst other things) cutlery, dairy, fish and flowers. There's even a little beergarden.
- The Karlsplatz ('Charles' Square'), much better known as Stachus, was once a prominent city gate. The gate still stands, although heavily modernised, and is the heart of a bustling shopping mile running all the way from Marienplatz to the nearby Munich Central Station. It has a big fountain, an impressive amount of cinemas, the nearby Justizpalast ('Palace of Justice', where, among other things, Sophie Scholl and her brother were sentenced to death). and also the biggest U-Bahn (underground) station.
- Adjacent to the Stachus runs the Sonnenstraße, which has become Munich's nominal party mile with night clubs and bars. Right next to it lies the Central Train Station quarter (Bahnhofsviertel), colloquially known as Klein-Istanbul ('Little Istanbul') which provides a variety of both smutty strip clubs and really great Turkish restaurants in equal measure.
- The Odeonsplatz ('Odeons' Square') is almost as iconic a place as the Marienplatz - on the south side stands the Feldherrnhalle ('Field Marshall's Hall') a Loggia war memorial directly modeled after the (smaller) Loggia dei Lanzi of Florence. On the east side lie the Royal Residence's Hofgarten ('Court Gardens'), housing Munich Egyptologist Collection and the Bavarian Cabinet buildings. On its west side the strikingly yellow Theatinerkirche, and to its north start the Ludwigstraße, a royal parade street leading into Schwabing. The Odeonsplatz has regularly been the place of public assembly - speeches, concerts and presentations have been held from or by the steps of the Feldherrnhalle. It was also where the 1923 Beerhall Putsch was cut down by armed police.
- At the other end of the Ludwigstraße stands the Siegestor ('Victory Gate'), an arc of triumph that bears probably the most iconic summation of German decorum in the last century: "Dem Sieg geweiht - Vom Krieg zerstört - Zum Frieden mahnend" ('Blessed With Victory - Destroyed By War - Urging For Peace').
- The Englische Garten ('English Garden') is Munich's large urban park, built in the style of an British garden green, designed by the American-born British physicist and architect Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. It's one of the largest municipal parks in the world (larger than New York's Central Park), and perhaps the most visually cosmopolitan place in the city - apart from the English flair, it also holds a Chinese pagoda tower and the (faux-)ancient Greek Monopteros pavillon. It also features wide a lake, several beergardens, a concert hall, an open-air theatre, a surfing spot (a rapid in the Eisbach channel popular with surfers), and a nudist area.
- The Hofbräuhaus ('Royal Brewery House') is a public beer hall and brewery owned by the Bavarian state. It's located at the Platzl ('Little Square') in one of the various little backstreets north of the Marienplatz. It was opened in 1598 by ducal decree to enact the Bavarian crown's monopoly on brewing and selling beer, in accordance to, among other things, a tight quality control. It has always been very popular with locals and outsiders alike, and has been known to count Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (who got inspired to write Idomeneo there), Vladimir Lenin (who lived across the street for a couple of years), Thomas Wolfe, Adolf Hitler (pre-rise to power, mostly), Marcel Duchamp and John F. Kennedy among its regulars.
- The Deutsches Museum ('German Museum') houses the world's largest exposition on technology and science, held by three museums city-wide (the original Museum Island, The Schrannenhallen and Oberschleißheim Airfield ). It covers a wide span of topics including architecture, shipbuilding, hydraulics, aviation, aeronautics, locomotion, nanotechnology, mining, astronomy and industrial engineering, all of the past, present and future.
- The bridges traversing the Isar and Museum Island also are steeped in history, being one of the few bridged places which let salt merchants pass, thus forcing them to pass by Munich and pay bridge toll to the city. At one point, this enterprise became so lucrative that Munich's founder, Duke Henry the Lion, even had the bridge of his arch-rival, the Bishop of the slightly-north-of-Munich see of Freising, burned down, causing an Empire-wide scandal.
- The Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), which lies on the Ludwigstraße, is a renowned institution that split from the University of Ingolstadt in 1802, and has since become a major intellectual instituion with twenty faculties and multiple research centres. Prominent lecturers and alumni include Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Werner Heisenberg, Conrad Adenauer, Sophie Scholl and all the other members of the Weiße Rose, Conrad Wilhelm 'X-Ray' Röntgen, and Josef Ratzinger (later better known as Pope Benedikt XVI). The university's surroundings are well established as a students' and scholars' quarter, filled with pubs and cafes known to cater primarily to the same.
- Another prominent Schwabing university is the Munich Technical University (TU), which, among other things, is known for its neutron research reactor (affectionately nicknamed the Atomei - 'Atomic Egg') and its collaboration on Elon Musk's Hyperloop project.
- The Königsplatz ('King's Square'), a square built by Ludwig I entirely in a style heavily based of ancient Greco-Roman architecture (Ludwig was quite an aficionado of Ancient Grome, and his son Otto was the King of Greece for a while), including another triumphal arch, the Glyptothek and the State Museum Of Art, both museums built in the style of temples. The square also houses the Italian villa of the painter Franz von Lenbach, which has since been turned into a gallery.
- It's almost a given that Hitler wanted to give the Greco-Roman architecture a try, and had several villas torn down to accommodate giant Nazi-esque party palaces and memorials. Many were in return blown up after liberation, but some still stand.
- The Mariahilfkirche (roughly translated as 'Mary's Help Church'), situated in the Au ('valley') district, is known for hosting Europe's largest crockery market, the Catholic festive Auer Dult fair, thrice a year. Considered to be Munich's very own Portobello Road, the traditions still stem from the time where the Au was the closest thing Munich had to poverty-stricken City Narrows. The Dult is famous for selling antiques, porcelain, housewares, records and toys, and comes with a humble funfair and beer tents.
- The Olympic Park (Olympiapark) is the compound where (guess what) the 1972 Summer Olympics were held. Virtually unchanged in state, it now mostly hosts local sports events, exhibitions, concerts and musicals. Features the almost 300 metre-tall Olympiaturm ('Olympic Tower') and the easily recognisable Olympic Stadion (the one with the drooping glass blanket roof). Also the Olympic Village, where... well...
- The Nymphenburg Palace (Schloss Nymphenburg) was the summer residence of the Bavarian kings, being to Munich what Versailles was to Paris.
- Bavarian Film is one of Germany's biggest production companies, located in Grünwald. The studio includes an attraction featuring sets and props from films such as The Neverending Story, Enemy Mine and Das Boot.
Taking a plunge into the Small Reference Pools
It's undeniably true that Munich is very strongly associated with Oktoberfest and Weißbier and Brezn and Lederhosen and Weißwurst and Fußball...
It is also true that the prevalence of those things in Munich's culture is barely exaggerated. Beer had been a vital export of the region, which, just like Munich, has its roots in the Catholic monasteries. The Bavarian Dukes were also the patrons of beer (case in point: the Hofbräuhaus, or 'Royal Brewery House', was in fact a brewery of the Bavarian Crown - and nowadays, the Free State) - not only made sure that beer stayed cheap and popular among the people, but also set purity laws and quality controls that have been adapted by most of the beer-brewing world. The Cloister of Weihenstephan, north of the city, is the world's oldest brewery still in existence, and the international school on the fine art of brewing beer.
The Oktoberfest was, contrary to popular opinion, not meant to be a celebration of Munich's beer heritage (at least, not just that), or even for the month of October, but marks the anniversary of the royal wedding between Prince (later King) Ludwig I and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 10th, 1810 on the same green. That said, the festivities were soon moved to September for weather reasons. Having once hosted horse racing and showcases for Bavarian agricultural capacity, it has mostly been replaced by beer tents and joyrides (with the agricultural expo still being held next-door concurrently). The present-day Oktoberfest is, with more than 7 Million visitors attracted in 16 days, by far the world's largest funfair.
Weißwurst is revered as the most delicate sausage (delicate in the every sense of the word - it used to spoil mere hours after being made, and it still cannot be thrown cold water and boiled it into submission like 'hardier' sausages) in the region, and the original Munich variation still knows few worthy substitutes.
Of course, it also still houses powerhouse football club FC Bayern München, the winner of 24 national and 5 UEFA titles.
What's more, BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works, and is headquartered near the Olympic Park.
Munich featured in Media
- Derrick, the crime series about Detective Chief Inspector (Kriminaloberinspektor) Stephan Derrick and his aide Detective Sergeant (Kriminalhauptmeister) Harry Klein solving murder cases in Munich and surroundings.
- Munich, naturally, features the Olympic Games massacre in the introduction.
- Sophie Scholl also takes place in Munich, namely at the University, Stadelheim Prison and the Palace of Justice.
- Tatort had an investigator team in Munich for a long time. It was one of many crime procedurals set in Munich, for some reason.
- Kir Royal was set entriely in Munich.
- Pumuckl is also set in the city, and has since been named the quintessential Bavarian children's series.
- Emergency 5 features Munich as a playable map, alongside Berlin and Hamburg. Interestingly enough, it is depicted as lying right at the feet of the Alps, instead of more than fifty kilometres north of them.
- Shown very shortly in Family Guy as one of the places Stewie and Brian tour on their way to Britain. It's laughably inaccurate, not only in its depiction of Munich as some kind of medieval Franconian town, but also as depicting the locals as repressed Neo-Nazis. note
- A significant part of Hitler: The Rise of Evil takes place in the city, including the failed fascist putsch of 1923. Since the film was shot entirely in Prague, there is a distinct lack of Munich landmarks (like the Feldherrnhalle at the Putsch shootout location).
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was filmed in Munich, with much of the city's unique architecture being very noticeable.
- Mingamanga about the adventures of four boys even has Munich in the title.
- Oktoberfest 1900, a fictional story around the eponymous event as it becomes bigger in both size and fame at the dawn of the 20th century. Bavarian dialects are noticeably absent.
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gmüaaatliiichkeiiit! Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gmüaaatliiichkeiiit!